05.1–Personal computing architecture-2012/01/13

Having acquired a smart phone in November 2011, I soon discovered that I needed to restructure my personal computing technology environment to integrate it and maximize the benefits of this new technology. I invested a lot of time to learn and understand the functionality and the applications available on this type of device.

In order to put the following in context and better understand why it is important, you should first read the first four articles of the evolution collection.

The need for an architecture

When you only have one computer the architecture is relatively simple: the computer, the peripherals and the local network. All are interconnected. But when you have a number of different devices it gets more complicated. Like anything complex you have to sit down and study the requirements and the different alternatives in order to select the combination that is best suited to your needs.

This is what I have done for myself and wants to share with you since most everyone is facing a similar situation these days. The overall principle to apply in designing such an architecture is SIMPLICITY. The other principle is to go with the market leaders. Use the same software’s and services on all similar components as much possible.

Let’s list my needs:

  1. Since I have three personal computers in different cities, I need to keep them all synchronized so that I don’t have to worry about always working on the latest version of my data. I need to have the same operating system (Windows 7) to facilitate this.
  2. Use the same backup software on each one to simplify my backups and easily recover any disaster quickly.
  3. Have access on the new smart phone to everything available on my personal computers.
  4. Ensure that all my email accounts are consolidated into one account, in my case Gmail.
  5. Be able to easily capture unstructured data and easily store it away for future use.

There are several ways to achieve this with various levels of complexity. The simplest way is to use Cloud services. Since it is the way I recommend, I will not elaborate on the other approaches.

The Cloud is a new type of services offered by an increasing number of companies to store your information on their WEB sites.

Please read the first article on the Cloud in the Cloud collection in parallel with the current article since both are complementary.

On the diagram below you can see where the different Cloud services referred to in the Cloud article fit.

The Google Cloud services handle everything other than your personal structured data files and your unstructured information files. Those are taken care by DropBox and Evernote. You can also synchronize other data, not on the Cloud,  stored on multiple computers but by using the Acronis True Image Home 2012 Sync function. I have tried it and it works well.

All of the above take care of all your synchronization needs. You also have the option to install your own Cloud on one of your routers by using a product like PogoPlug4 that just came out on the market in December 2011. I will test this product later this spring and publish a blog on the results in this Cloud collection.

You can also notice that the proposed Cloud services support the most popular technology protocols in the market: Windows, Android, Apple iOS5,… This means that it become transparent to the user which device technology he works on. It “de facto” solves another significant technology compatibility hurtle.

The next step, is to get your employer to give you access to your corporate emails so that you integrate all your emails into one Gmail account under separate email addresses. This would make your life easy by having to look only in one place to see all your emails.

The last thing is to regularly take backups of your different devices in case of a disaster. With the Cloud services a disaster can be repaired since all of your data is also stored on the Cloud servers, but without backups you would have to regenerate from scratch parts of or your entire computing environment which requires time and precision. A regular backup will help you get back on your feet in a matter of minutes versus hours or days.

Acronis True Image Home 2012 is an excellent backup software in addition to synchronizing your data. Acronis also offers Cloud backup if you do not want to bother with external hard drives. Your choice!

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